Although October – Domestic Violence Awareness Month is coming to a close, it is still important to draw attention to the lesser known issue of dating abuse. Dating abuse falls into the large category of IPV, or interpersonal violence, which is addressed under NOW’s core issue of Ending Violence Against Women. As such, it requires feminists to be aware and actively advocate on behalf of dating abuse victims. How best to do that is discussed in this blog.
One organization, Break the Cycle, is exclusively devoted to addressing relationship violence and abuse, particularly for younger people. They define dating abuse as being “a pattern of abusive behaviors – usually a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time – used to exert power and control over a dating partner”. This dynamic is largely one of control and power and covers range of intrusive and controlling behaviors. One should look for any of a number of red flags including requiring an examination of a phone or social media without consent, excessive jealousy or temper, isolation from family and friends, making false accusations, inflicting physical pain, etc.
Not surprisingly, this issue is critical among younger people. A study by Break the Cycle, found that for high school students, one in three had already experienced a form of physical and/or sexual violence from their dating partner. Hence Break the Cycle’s mission to target younger people, especially women, so they understand they are worthy of a healthy and supportive relationship and do not tolerate any form of abuse from their dating partner. We must cultivate a strong sense of self-worth in young women that they are deserving of better relationships, which will hopefully lead to healthier dating behaviors later in their lives.
There are many ways that feminists can become an advocate for survivors of dating abuse. On the national level, organizations like Break the Cycle, are part of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF). The NTF’s mission is to develop and implement public policy that focuses on domestic violence, dating violence sexual assault and stalking. Check out their website if you are interested in learning about this task force or becoming more involved.
On a more grassroots level, you can join Break the Cycle’s efforts such as Love is Not Abuse which educates young people and proposes policies to address teen dating violence. Or you can participate in Let’s Be Real, which is a national movement of young people educating about healthy relationships.
This is an incredibly critical issue and it can be difficult for victims to recognize that they are in an abusive relationship or how to ask for help. But you are never alone. Reach out to a friend, a family member, a trusted colleague, or a staff member at school and inform them of your situation. Additionally, here are some resources that you can call if you are a victim of domestic violence and want to be anonymous when seeking assistance.
Blog by Alison Lo, President’s Office Intern
- Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for free 24/7 assistance.
- Visit the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline if you are a teenager requiring assistance.
- Visit Break the Cycle’s page for legal assistance if you require legal help.
Source: Break the Cycle: https://www.breakthecycle.org/